6 Essential Websites for Fantasy and Sci-fi Worldbuilding, Part 1

Add these six websites to these apps and this one to complete you fantasy/sci-fi worldbuilding toolkit.

So you have your characters and your story and your world all figured out and you've built your family trees... but what about some of the more visual related aspects, like maps and coats of arms?

How are you going to easily keep track of the timeline for your story, which in these two genres in particular can get pretty tough to keep a handle on, for both you and your readers?

If you're independently published, where are you going to find a ton of pretty, free-to-use images for your website, blog and book covers?

Look no further than this page for answers to those questions.

For Royalty-Free (Gorgeous!) Stock Images: Pixabay

Pixabay is a collection of over a million high-quality stock photos that are absolutely, 100% free to download, free to edit, and free for commercial use.

I know, I didn't believe it either, so I looked around a bit. See, to the right on that third screenshot, where it says, "Pixabay License: Free for commercial use, No attribution required"? That same license is cited on every single image on the site.

I still didn't believe it until I perused their brief and succinct terms of service that confirms that, yes, what you see is what you get. Still don't believe it? See for yourself.

When you perform a search you can see right at the top how many pages and how many individual images came up in that search--my search for "castle" found 186 pages containing over 10,000 images. There is a safe search mode, to filter out any images tagged as adult in nature.

No attribution is required, but personally, I like to give credit where credit is due, especially for such beautiful images. Click on the photographer's username at the top right, and you'll be taken to their profile, containing their entire Pixabay gallery. Cite their name, link to their profile--I like to do both, but that's up to you.

For an Extensive (or Simple) Sortable Timeline of Events: Tiki Toki

Tiki Toki is a beautiful site for creating timelines that are as extensive or simple as you want them to be. Categories can be created and color-coded for easy sorting and navigation, and can also be displayed all at once, or one or a few at a time. A photo can be added to each event, and the timeline can be viewed in 2D or 3D.

Because the software only recognizes dates structured as they are on the real world Gregorian calendar, if you have a unique system for recording dates, as I do, you'll need to set events using the nearest real-world equivalent. I then just make note of how the date would canonically be recorded in the description.

It does let you go as far back in the B.C./B.C.E. era and as far into the future as you need to, so recording a date in the year 3031 (the year on my Mortal calendar that Sons of Kings kicks off) didn't cause an issue. It is only the month and day that require the use of an equivalent.

The timeline cannot be embedded in your website without a premium account ($7.50/mo for a bronze account, $25/mo for silver), but you can find a pretty way to link to it, as I've done here. The data can be printed or downloaded in .pdf, .csv or .json formats for backup purposes with a free account. I keep a copy of each format for triple-backup--one can never be too protective of data they spent hours compiling.

For Drawing Maps: Azgaar's Fantasy Map Generator

When I'm reading a fantasy epic, I like to have a map of the world for reference--it helps me picture "where I am" in any given passage in relation to the rest of the world. As a result, I'm more educated in the geography of A Song of Ice and Fire, Lord of the Rings and Wheel of Time than I am in that of the real world. For proof of what a map geek I am, here's a pic of one wall of my office plastered in maps of George R.R. Martin's Known World and J.R.R. Tolkien's Middle-Earth. But I digress.

When you open up Azgaar's Fantasy Map Generator, it will automatically generate a random map, like the one you see up top. Click the small arrow in the top left corner to pull up the menu and click "New Map" near the bottom to generate a new random map. Do this until you find one that works for you, or there is an option to draw your map from scratch.

Maps cannot be saved directly on the site for long, but they can be saved to your hard drive and reloaded for further editing using the "Load" option at the bottom of any section of the menu. This is pretty self-explanatory, as is everything on the menu. Maps can be zoomed in to an epic extent to add details like smaller towns or forests, then zoomed back out for a less detailed overview of the world.

Maps can be viewed in standard, 3D scene or globe formats in full color, greyscale, sepia, dingy or tint; they can be saved to your hard drive in .map, .svg, .png, .jpeg and .json formats. Again, I keep copies of mine in three different formats. Attribution is not required when sharing maps created on the site.

Come back later today, and I'll have three more for you. Until then, come say hi--let me know how you like these.

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